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Who is Grand Master Jay?

Published: May. 19, 2021 at 10:23 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The outspoken leader of a militia group that marched through Louisville during last year’s protests will be back in town to face state and federal charges.

Grand Master Jay, or John Fitzgerald Johnson, is accused of pointing an AR-style rifle at federal agents and police officers in downtown Louisville. The FBI provided photos of the moments that’s now got Johnson fighting felonies. He’s expected in court on Thursday.

“I don’t expect to come anywhere to be arrested because I don’t break the law,” Johnson told WAVE 3 News in September.

The FBI, WAVE 3 News found out, is still investigating a portion of Johnson’s past that also jumped out through research for a WAVE 3 News Troubleshooter investigation.

Johnson and heavily-armed members of their group, called the NFAC, have marched through several other cities, including Atlanta and Minneapolis.

Johnson usually appears during protests in military-style fatigues, holding a long rifle. But his past also includes calling himself a DJ, being a YouTube blogger, and even a presidential candidate.

The charges, which could take away his right to possess a firearm at all, come from a night last September. But, WAVE 3 News learned it wasn’t the first time Johnson has been arrested for pointing a rifle.

WAVE 3 News Troubleshooters obtained Johnson’s military records through the Freedom of Information Act. It showed Johnson was demoted and discharged from the U.S. Army, not once, but twice. In both instances, Johnson received an “other than honorable discharge.”

The FBI is now investigating how he was able to re-enlist. According to the military records, Johnson joined the Virginia National Guard in 1989. He then served in the U.S. Army from October 1990 to July 1997, and again from July 1998 to September 1999. The Office of the Chief of Public Affairs added he then served in the Army Reserves from December 2003 to April 2006.

Johnson served as a Single Channel Radio Operator and a Personnel Administration Specialist. During that time, there are numerous military police records depicting multiple arrests.

In March 1995, Johnson was arrested and accused of punching a woman in the face with a closed fist. The report states he was escorted out of a nightclub by security guards who waited at the entrance for him to leave. However, the report states Johnson took a shotgun from the trunk of his car, pointed it toward them, and “told them he was going to kill them.” The guards ran inside the club and closed the door in fear for their lives, the documents state. Johnson’s bond was set at $85,523.

In May 1999, Johnson was charged with impersonating an officer. That report states the military post was contacted by University of Alaska-Fairbanks police, claiming Johnson had impersonated a military police officer and was driving with a suspended license while trying to enter a campus main gate.

July 1999, the Army accused him of altering a public document, giving a false official statement, and larceny of government property.

According to the FBI, Johnson agreed to an “other than honorable discharge” to avoid trial by court-martial.

In August 2003, another military police report, despite the discharge, accused Johnson of trespassing for unlawful entry into a military installation, communicating threats, and carrying a concealed weapon on post. The documents state Johnson and his partner, identified by the FBI as his wife, were in a verbal altercation. That’s when, the military report states, Johnson reached for a Bushmaster rifle in his trunk. As his wife tried to stop him, Johnson allegedly threatened to kill her and her platoon sergeant, who was also present.

That incident, the FBI said, happened during a formation and recognition ceremony on Fort Bragg. The FBI added that the alleged victim claimed their marriage was mentally and physically abusive. Johnson was picked up by the FBI to await his court hearing, the report states.

In March 2005, Johnson is classified as a “deserter/absentee” and listed as AWOL until March 2006. That’s when Johnson negotiated a second discharge to avoid trial by court-martial. He was granted a second “other than honorable” discharge, demoted to the rank of private.

After his time in the military, Johnson’s second chapter in the music industry begins. Seven years later, Grand Master Jay is born. The title “Grand Master” is reserved as an honor in the DJ world. But there was one problem -- numerous posts and videos from DJs around the country stated he never officially received the title and was not well-known in the industry despite Johnson’s claims. DJ Jazzy Jeff and Grandmaster Flash were among Johnson’s critics.

In an ad for DJing Machine, Johnson is depicted making music with the product, but the music used in the ad was actually taken from a live performance by DJ Jazzy Jeff. The Grammy Award-winning DJ publicly criticized Johnson for trying to pass his music off as his own.

“I don’t care if you are the worst DJ in the world ... I’ll give you credit,” DJ Jazzy Jeff wrote in an Instagram post. “JUST DONT FAKE IT.”

Grandmaster Flash also made a handful of public posts about Johnson.

“So im totally LOST ... who is Grandmaster Jay he said he came up with me as a pioneer Dj---I don’t recall you sir---please explain yourself,” Grandmaster Flash wrote in one post.

In 2016, Johnson ran as a presidential candidate.

Then, last year, Johnson reinvented himself again, this time as a militia leader, marching through cities like Atlanta, Minneapolis and Louisville while keeping the military-style gear and the Grand Master name, remnants of the two other chapters in his life.

Johnson is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday and in federal court Monday. He faces five counts of first-degree wanton endangerment of a police officer in state court. He also was indicted by a federal grand jury and faces one count of assaulting, resisting or impeding officers and one count of brandishing a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. For the federal charges, Johnson faces a minimum of three years in custody and a maximum of 27 years.

WAVE 3 News contacted the NFAC’s spokesperson to interview Johnson for this story but did not hear back.

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